Challenge/Solution: Re-roofs and Leaks

Roof leaks are often a nuisance for a building owner or property manager. They are hard to track down, cause damage to interior finishes and lead to tenant complaints – and, if not resolved, unhappy tenants. But those leaks become a nightmare when a financial decision is made to replace the entire roof of the building and yet it still leaks.

Frequently, an exterior building restoration company will get a call to come out and try to resolve such leaks. The conversation usually starts with an explanation that this is a brand new roof, that it has had issues from day one, and that the roofer has been out numerous times to satisfy the warranty to no avail but now says it is not the roof that is leaking. It may be hard to accept – after all it was probably a significant financial investment – but most of the time the roofer is right.

Most structures today are constructed out of many different materials that move at different rates, and the details marrying all of this together are complex and at the same time more vulnerable to errors and failure. In roofing, details around penetrations at parapet and around building systems are very critical to successful projects. Those are points where the majority of leaks occur. However, in a re-roofing project, even if all the details are done correctly, it may not be enough. Often what stands above those details has aged and weathered as well, leading to deterioration and allowing moisture through. That moisture then finds its way behind the newly installed roof.

It is important to review the condition of building's components that rise above the roof level such as a penthouse, elevator shafts, stair towers, parapet walls and coping. Evaluate the parapet walls from both interior and exterior. The most visible signs of potential avenues for water infiltration are broken/missing masonry, deteriorated mortar and sealant joints, deteriorated concrete, etc. Sometimes moisture can penetrate even what looks to be a solid wall but may be porous. If those signs exist, there is most likely a leak.

When such repairs need to be performed, it is extremely important that the new roof is well protected and the original installer is notified. If the re-roofing project is just a budget state, it is important to evaluate those building components and make the repairs prior to installation of a new roof. It is not only the right way to do a re-roof but cost-effective as well.

This article was written by Gene Shevchenko, Branch Manager of Western Specialty Contractors. For more information about our Cleveland branch and how to contact Gene, visit the branch's page here.